August 2012 Archives

Pink Boronia by Ella McFadyen

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Little pink Boronia,
   In your gingham gown,
Mid the silken poppies
   On a florist's stall in town.

Never droop your head ashamed;
   Fairer far than they
Are you in your native home
   Of the sandstone grey.

Would they leave your loveliness
   Where it aye belongs,
Dancing to the gay wind's kiss
   And the free birds' songs.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 August 1929

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Wooing by David McKee Wright

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'Twas the Spring in the air
  And a laughter that ran
Over Moina's black hair
   To the heart of a man;
With the thorn-bush in leaf
   And the wet clover green --
Och, April, you thief,
  Is it love that you mean?

'Twas her mother's white goat
   On the side of the hill
And the rain on my coat
   With the sun laughing still,
And the thought of her eyes --
   Sure, my heart is a gift,
In the black of surprise,
   When her eyelashes lift!

'Twas the word that I spoke
   With the wind blowing clear
And the small sob that broke
   In my throat full of fear.
"Och, Danny," she said,
   "There's the white cream to set
And the pigs to be fed
   And you're plaguing me yet?"

Would she slide past the door?
   Och, her tongue was too wise;
But I listened far more
   To the look in her eyes --
"Sure, stay and be kist."
   But she turned by the wall
With a fine-lady twist
   Of her head and her shawl.

'Twas the Spring in the air
   And the green of the world,
And the black of her hair
   Set me mad where it curled.
"Och, Moina, come out,
   Girl of dreams, and be kist" --
But she hit me a clout
   with the white of her fist.

Would she slide past the door?
   Sure, her mouth was too red.
With the cheek of me sore
   And those eyes in her head.
Troth, I kist her too well --
   Twenty times at the least.
"Now, Danny, we'll tell
   A small word to the priest."

First published in The Bulletin, 30 August 1917 and again in the same magazine on 30 October 1929;
and later in
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Lover's Song by Cecil Mann

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To a bird upon a tree,
   Singing, singing, sweetly singing,
"Sure," I said, "a sprite like thee
Knows what's in the heart of me,  
   Singing, sweetly singing."  

"True," he said, "and that I know,
   Lover, lover, foolish lover:
She has hands as white as snow,
And a heart as cold as woe,
   Lover, foolish lover.  

"Keep your, song within its deeps,
   Lover, lover, wiser lover;
Kiss each pretty eye that peeps,
Kiss her till, of Joy she weeps,
   Lover, wiser lover."

But because my heart was shy,
   Shy and lonely, shy and lonely,
All his wisdom passed me by ---
Yet I won her with a sigh,   
   Lonely, shy and lonely.  

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 August 1925

Author: Cecil Mann (1896-1967) was born in Cudgen, New South Wales, and worked for The Bulletin between 1925 and 1960.  He was, for a time, the editor of the Red Page in the magazine.  He died in Concord, New South Wales in 1967.

Author reference sites: Austlit

Call of the Bush by Constance M. Le Plastrier

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I must go out to the bush to-day,
   For its witching voice I have heard;
The call of the flowers, the call of the trees,
   And, oh, the call of a bird!

Loud, clear call from the gum trees tall,  
   Soft notes in the woodland hush;
Fairy flutings of dear blue wrens,
   And, oh, the call of the thrush!

Never a king had carpet so rare
   As that which the earth has spread,
Where royal purples and tender blues
   Are blended with gold and red.

The slender clematis has spread her veil  
   Of starry blooms to the breeze;
And the bees are murmuring all day long  
   In the flowers of the tall gum trees.  

The wattle has brought from the earth's warm heart
   The gold that was hidden there;
She has hung it in tassels and fairy balls,
   And its perfume has filled the air.

I must go out from the town to-day,
   From its noise and turmoil and push,
For I hear the clear call of bird and of tree,
   And, oh, the call of the bush!

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 August 1926

Author: Constance Mary Le Plastrier (1864-1938) was born in St Kilda, Victoria, and worked as a teacher.  She wrote botany textbooks and was elected as the first woman president of Field Naturalists' Society.  She moved to Sydney in 1900 and wrote for a number of Catholic newspapers.  She is mainly known for her short stories along with two novels.  She died in Sydney in 1938.

Author reference site: Austlit

How We Beat the Bungtown Crew by Phil Garlick

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Just sit you down, my hearties, and I'll tell you what I've known
To befall the boys we played with in the days of "Mike" Malone.
We reckoned that we knew the game, and we didn't care a curse
For all the combinations in the Bungtown universe.

We were due to play the Bruisers, "friends" we'd often met before,
And it came our way thus early that with us they'd "wipe the floor!"
But if ever men were ready, then our followers were that day,
And I never saw them fitter, or so eager for the fray.

The Bungtown boys were favourites, for they hadn't lost a game,
But the team we represented were never known to fame.
The match was down for half-past two, and the Bruisers took the field
Just as fit as hands could make them to to none prepared to yield.

We were later out than usual, and the mod commenced to howl,
But our skipper said: "Oh, curse them!  Just let the ____ growl!"
Still, we didn't keep them waitin' -- soon the battle had begun,
And a shout went up around us, as away the leather spun.

They rush it up the centre, and their forwards beat out backs,
And the mob went mad with shouting: "You will line these ___ 'acks!"
Then the goals they came in showers, and our fellows seemed outdone.
As we finished up the quarter with them twenty points to none.

Then we had the wind behind us, but 'twas all the same to them,
For they waltzed around us, and their pace we couldn't stem.
But just before the cowbell, "Ginger" sent the leather through,
And we parted for refreshments with their score at eight to two.

Then our captain held a council -- such a thing we'd never had,
And he told us not to blame him if the ___ "did us bad."
But we took the matter kindly, and we made a solemn vow
That we'd do or die this quarter, and we'd win this game somehow.

The umpire blew his whistle -- we had changed our ruck this time --
And our friends began to cheer us as we bounded o'er the line.
We hadn't gone ten minutes ere we'd much reduced the score,
And it looked as though we'd catch them -- but we wanted two goals more.

They said, "Any odds, the Bruisers," when we faced the final duel,
And the mob was "pokin' mullock" as we lined up for our gruel.
"Scooter" thought he'd change his tactics, and he said to "Mike" Malone:
"Take a turn at playin' forward, and let 'Boshter' Kirton roam!"

But disaster seemed to dog us, and they'd made another goal
Before we'd time to check them, and they had us in a hole.
Then O'Malley got the leather, and he passed it on to "Mick,"
And a shout went up like thunder as our hero did the trick.

We were now six points behind them -- and with twenty minutes played,
"Scooter" shot it on to "Ginger," and another point was made.
Our jokers played like demons, but the pace began to tell,
And as our forwards kicked out wide we thought we hard the bell.

But 'twas our imagination -- we'd a minute more to play --
So we knew 'twas now or never, though they kept us well at bay.
M'Lusky for the Bruisers was then seem to make a bound,
And he collared "Mike" Maloney, and he swung him round and round.

The umpire brought the leather back, and awarded a free kick,
And you could have heard a pin drop as he gave the ball to "Mick."
Just then the cowbell sounded, and full eighty yards, 'twas seen,
Lay the goal from "Mike" Maloney -- and it had to go between.

He put it down upon the ground, and walked back half-a-mile.
And our Skipper whispered: "Michael! now you're fairly on your trial!"
"Mike" took his run -- and rooted -- like a bird the leather flew --
And the roar that shook the rafters showed we'd beat the Bungtown crew.

First published in Melbourne Punch, 27 August 1908

Author: nothing is known about the author of this poem 

The Song of the Wowser Cray by Hal Gye

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I ride no more in the Drunks' Express,
   Where travellers howl and rave;
I lie no more as a nasty mess
   Of scraps on the morning pave;
I don't go home in the dawn's grey light
   With yells and a drunked song;
I take no part in a drunken fight,
   Or anything else that's wrong.

I ride no more in the seaside train,
   With chaps for a gay weekend;
I float no more through the window-pane,
   Which somebody's got to mend;
My claws don't fall on the ladies' hats,
   Nor my tail on someone's knee;
My innards have given up spoiling spats
   Of passengers next to me.

I lie no more in splashes of beer,
   'Mid splinters of broken glass;
I'm followed no more by "Johns" severe,
  Nor warned by curates who pass.
I cause no rows in the Dago shops
   With "blokes on a bonzer spree";
And I don't make Dagoes send for the "cops"
   To settle the price of me.

I don't go home in the black coat-tails
   Of gentlemen slightly tight;
And I don't affront the grim females
   I used to offend at night;
I lie no more on the carpet neat,
   Nor rest on the counterpane;
I do not damage the parler suite
   With my claw or my ribald stain.

I've come to the end of festive night
   And trips in a Drunks' Express;
I won't see any more wondrous sights
   Of the midnight wickedness;
I'll be no more what I used to be,
   For all it's passed away --
The early-closing of pubs, you see,
   Has made me a wowser cray.

First published in The Bulletin, 26 August 1915

Author: Harold Frederick Neville Gye (1887-1967) was born in Ryde, New South Wales, and is primarily known as the illustrator of C.J. Dennis's works such as The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke.  Gye moved to Melbourne with his family at the age of 12 and became a law clerk before finding that he could make a living from his drawing.  He produced work for many magazines such as The Bulletin, The Gadfly, Punch and The Lone Hand as well as numerous newspapers.  He also wrote a number of poems and short stories, mainly published in The Bulletin.  He died in Beaumaris in Victoria in 1967.

Author reference sites:
Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Beach by E.J. Brady

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Like Cleopatra's neck incurved,
   Or Phryne's arms of snow,
From Bastion Rock to Gabo swerved
   And bended as a bow;
It offers to the Austral sun
   It's miles of silvern sand,
In virgin beauty, yet unwon
   By any spoiler's hand.

At night I hear the ancient seas --
   White-headed seers, along
These darkened shores their memories
   Pour forth in epics long
Of years primeval. And in strange,
   Soft, minor chords reply
Old pilgrim winds that reef and range,
   Unrested, wander by.

Deep secrets theirs----of aeons gone,
   When suns and systems, worn
By endless forces, fiercely shone
   In nascent strength newborn;
When gave the seventh Pleiad out,
   Unshamed, her starry boon;
And glowed, o'er jungles north and south,
   A tropic polar moon.

Time's burdens and the yoke of years
   Have tamed their early might;
No more the cow'ring caveman hears
   The storm gods in the night;
No more do chartless shallops hie
   A furtive course from shore;
And in their quiet havens lie
   The dead ships evermore.

But they who nursed the germ of life,
   The new ameboid cell,
From which, or science errs, the strife
   Of all that follows fell.
What marvels have they looked within
   Their ocean hearts? What dreams
Of empire and of effort in
   Their world-encircling streams?

For they, who cradled first of Eld
   The Ion, shaped in cell,
With Man and Man's far future held
   All Heaven, Earth and Hell!
And when ensuing epochs rang
   With rage of death and birth,
On vanished shores they proudly sang
   The oldest songs of earth.

Betimes, a-dreaming, when my camp-
   Fire reds the foreland, I
Can dimly hear the Titan tramp
   Of Ages marching by;
And, scroll by scroll, the Eras, rolled
   On mighty parchments, pearled
With priceless truths to me unfold
   The Story of the World.

Then deep-sea voices faint recall,
   And deep-sea echoes bring
The roar of monsters and the fall
   Of preying foot and wing;
These pass and perish at a breath,
   Their weaker types remain --
Slow evolution armed with death
   From bulk, reduces brain!

I hear wild winds primeval fan
   Volcanic mountains steep,
Where, in the quiet future, Man
   His fertile tilth will reap.
I see an Everlasting Force
   Re-mould, destroy, re-shape;
Give firmer foothold to the horse
   And forehead to the ape.

Anon these songs of effort cease
   And kinder themes outpour,
In turn the diva-throated seas
   Unto a listening shore.
Aye, then methinks, I hear retold
   Old stories ever new,
Of Jason and the heroes bold
   Red-hearted, proud and true.

Old galleys dip their carven beaks
   Into the azure brine,
That in their Delphic feasts fair Greeks
   May pour the Samian wine.
In rose gondolas, silken-sailed
   The royal Doges go,
And young Crusaders silver-mailed,
   With bannerets of snow.

Rome's daring eagles, flaunting high
   Their wings of blood, go on,
Fair burn across a sunset sky
   Brave banners of St. John.
Columbus, peering through the dusk,
   I see fare forth amain --
A glory harvest from the husk
   Of Littleness to gain.

I glimpse John Cabot with his white
   Hair rimed by northern spray;
And grandly through the awful night
   I hear his courage say:
"As near to Heaven, friends, by sea --
   Though Death wait either hand --
As near to Heaven now we be
   As e'er we'll be on land."

I hear Magellan dauntless cry,
   "Not if we eat the hides
From off this vessel's yards shall I
   Turn back, whate'er betides,
Till these new seas are conquered!" Drake,
   A-roaring down the main,
With gallant ruffians in his wake
   I see go out again.

Aye, out again and home again,
   Along historic years,
For either glory, love or gain,
   Go forth these buccaneers;
The pirate brood, with laden chests,
   Outspilling plundered toll;
The black sea eagles in their nests,
   Blood-stained, but brave of soul.

The saucy sloop, the frigate gay,
   The fighting forty-four;
The oaken hulls of Nelson's day,
   The ships of trade and war.
Night long the roving waters bring
   Their ghostly memories;
Night long the ancient surges sing
   High human historics.

But when the east, attendant, waits
   Her mansions to adorn,
And with skilled magic decorates
   The bridal couch of Morn;
With royal purple drapes each plinth
   Of frowning rock, and fills
With topaz and with hyacinth
  The hollows of the hills.

When low the inlet and its isles,
   In Asiatic guise,
Salaam with soft and pliant smiles
   The Sultan of the Skies;
As from the lakes a silver veil
   Of mist is deftly drawn,
An Amazon in golden mail
   The Beach salutes the Dawn.

White lace of foam around her knees,
   She flutters like a girl;
And threads her blue embroideries
   With seaweed and with pearl.
The spotted cowrie and the fair,
   Frail nautilus are hers,
Rose spirals and the shining, rare
   Sea shells and mariners.

The jewel caskets of the deeps
   Lie ready to her hand,
In ev'ry tropic wave that leafs
   Foam-freighted to her sand.
And now, in cadence, measured, slow,
   From minstrels submarine
Sweet rhymes and rondels gaily flow
   Across this sunlit scene.

O! Life and Now these minstrels chant --
   A pagan song of old,
The song dark lovers of Levant
   Outsang in hours of gold.
A radiance now, a rare delight,
   A dream of love and wine,
She lieth in the morning light
   This Austral beach of mine.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 August 1910;
and later in
Bells and Hobbles by E. J. Brady, 1911.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Her Last Message: The Heroine of Conenaugh Valley by Alice Ham

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"Mrs. Ogle, the operator, remained at her post, and wired to the stations below warnings of their danger from the advancing flood; wiring to South Fork she added the brave significant words: 'This is my last message.'"

A shout in the mountainous street,
A confusion of fugitive feet,
A roar that appalled in the air,
And an answering cry of despair.

"The great dam has burst!" Though as pale
As the rose in her gown, did she quail?
No! but sprang to her instrument straight;
"Let others escape, I shall wait" --

Tick! tick! and the message flies through
From the tremulous fingers but true,
To the valleys unconscious beneath
Of the rush of the waters of death.
 
Unrelenting and hungry they come,
"Forty feet and surmounted by foam,"  
They break from escarpment and wall,
They escape with a thunderous fall.

One brave woman has recognised fate,
And wires to South Fork ere too late ---
As the waters are nearing her fast:
"This is my last message --- my last!"  

Her last! and her best? Even so!  
On that day of unspeakable woe
She passed first through the flood-gates away,
But her message shall echo for aye!

First published in The Queenslander, 24 August 1889

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

Night on the Lane Cove by Robert R. Hall

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Dewy leaves of mangroves shimmer
Breeze-stirred, and moon-bathed they glimmer.
Fancy weaves a radiant hood
O'er softly silhouetted wood.
The river's ever-changing mould   
Of ripples mirrors flecks of gold.
Clothed in moonbeams' mystic light,  
Forms of beauty grace the night.    

Lap of waves on sheltered strand,
Scrape of crab-claws on the sand,  
Drone of gnats, weird slough of breeze  
Through spreading scrub and spectral trees,
Whirring of a mopoke's wings,
His mournful hoot, small whispering things:
Myriad voices all unite  
To praise the beauty of the night.

First published
in The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 1930

Author: Nothing is known about the author of this poem.

At the Football Match: Last Saturday by Edward Dyson

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("From the first bounce of the ball, it was evident that ardent spirits on both sides had entered the field determined to play the men, and not the ball."..."Tripping and shoving behind were the chief features of the first quarter."..."Up to this stage, two players had been rendered useless."..."He made a dash forward, and was downed by Martin, of Essendon. Hugh Purse rushed up and struck Martin. In a twinkling a dozen players were punching one another...Nolan rished wildly down on the mob, and lunged at the nearest Essendonian...Nolan and Martin came to blows...A score of players bunched and fought viciously...Parkinson received a punch in the face from Nolan's fist...Again Nolan's fist was in the way, and down went Stevenson. A couple of trainers spent the next few minutes in reviving him...Nolan sent Busbridge spinning." Pleasant extracts from the "Age's" account of Essendon v. Melbourne.)
 
Begob, it was a lovely game, a game iv blood an' hair,
Wid a trifle iv torn whiskers an' an eyelid here an' there,
And iv all th' darlin' bla'guards that was afther raisin' cain
There was niver one like Nolan. Whoop for Oireland once again!
      Yer a jooel, Mister Nolan,
      Yer a bhoy there's no conthrolin',
And when Erin wants a Saviour, sure we'll send our noble Nolan.

When the foight was at its hottest how he charged th' writhin' mob,
He whirled his fists, and yelled "Whooroo!" and punched 'em in the gob,
The riots Home in belfast they was nothin' worth a word
To th' lovely dose of throuble that on saturday occurred
      When the splendid hero, Nolan,
      Sent the other divils rollin',
And all Essendon was crippled by our lovely fightin' Nolan.

Poor parkinson was waitin', an' he got it in the jaw,
And for anything that followed, 'sor, he didn't give a sthraw.
On the ground th' bye was lyin' wid his eyes up to the sun,
While his conqueror was layin' out the others one by one --
      Was the dashin' Mister Nolan.
      It was bowls and he was bowlin',
Wid th' bodies of his rivals, was th' harum scarum Nolan.

He jammed th' ball down Martin's throat, he did upon me soul,
And then he shwore the umpire blind he thought it was the goal;
He whirled the players cross th' field like feather in th' breeze,
He punched them wid his bunch of fives, he dug 'em wid his knees,
      Did that playful divil Nolan.
      Och! his style is so cajolin',
Ye must have a heart of iron if ye're not in love wid Nolan.

At th' finish he was thereabout, his heart so full of fun
That th' umpire couldn't shtop him wid a poleaxe or a gun,
An' when he'd filled th' Hos-pit-al wid players that was there,
He yelled: "Bring in all Essendon, its Council and its 'Mare!'
      For I'll whip them all," said Nolan.
      He's a bhoy there's no conthrollin',
And when Ireland's wantin' Home Rle, begob! we'll send her fightin' Nolan!

First published in Melbourne Punch, 22 August 1907;
and later in
The Great Australian Book of Football Stories edited by Garrie Hutchinson,  1989.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Dirty Dick's Dilemma by Will Lawson

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Dirty Dick of Yalgobin
   Lived in a hut apart from men;
Marked by the years and seared by sin,
   He swore he'd never see town again;
Talked to the trees and talked to his dog,
Or the sheep or a snake or a hollow log ---
   He lived like a dog in his den.

There came a wag to his hut one day
   When Dirty Dick was out,
Who chalked on his door ere he went his way
   Through the burning, blazing drought,
"Dirty Dick of Yalgobin
Keeps the dirtiest hut I've ever seen,
   Of that there is no doubt."

When Dirty Dick came home that night
   He saw the message there;
But he could neither read nor write
   And he could only stare
And say "It's something the boss wants done;
I'll have to find some son-of-a-gun
   To settle this affair."

He pulled the door from its hinges down
   And slung it on his back,
And started off for Budgery Town
   Along the Budgery track.
Eighteen miles it was, no less,
Of heat and thirst and weariness ---
   It made Dick's muscles crack.

"Read what's wrote on me door," said Dick
   To the boss of the Budgery pub.
Whose heart was kind and whose brain was quick
   To save old Dick a snub.
He said "It says I'm to give you two
Of the biggest beers a man can brew
   To sleep off in the scrub."

When Dirty Dick of Yalgobin,
   Who lives in a hut apart from men.
Gets thirsty now, he says with a grin,
   "I'd better get back to the pub again."
He shoulders his door and they yell with fun
To see him coming in storm or sun
   Where Budgery's streets close in.

The message that's written on old Dick's door
   Has faded in storm and drought;
But he sits and reads it as if he was sure
   He knew what 'twas all about.
"Dirty Dick of Yalgobin
Has had more free beer than you've ever seen ---
   That's how he makes it out.

First published
in The Bulletin, 21 August 1940;
and later in
Australian Bush Songs and Ballads edited by Will Lawson, 1944;
Old Ballads From the Bush edited by Bill Scott, 1987; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Katherine Bell, 2007.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Swamp by Myra Morris

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I can forget it in the day--
That haunting shape of ill
That broods above the flooded swamp,
Oppressing it until
The waters dark with secrets lie,
Withdrawn and deadly still.

I can forget it in the day,
For then the kingcups' gold
Embroiders all the reedy edge,
And lily-buds unfold --
Their whiteness where thick stems go down
To depths unplumbed and cold.

And silver birds on silver sticks
Stay moveless by the brim,
And shallows break in silver swirls,
And gauzy creatures skim
The ripples laving with their light   
Reed, blade, and lonely limb ....

But in the night, long, long before
The moon begins to climb.
Strange sounds from eerie haunts ring out,
And things as old as time
Drag snuffling through the water-weeds,
And creep along the slime.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 1938

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Ned Connor: A Tale of the Bush by Charles Harpur

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'Twas Night -- and where a wat'ry sound
Came moaning up the Flat,
Six rude and bearded Stockmen round
Their blazing hut-fire sat,
And laughed, as on some starting hound
The cracking fuel spat.

And merrier still the log-fire cracks
As night the starker falls:
And not a noisy tongue there lacks
To tell of drunken brawls
But most, of battle with the Blacks
Some bloody tale appals.

Amongst them then Ned Connor spoke,
And up his stature drew:
What is there in an open stroke
To boast? -- you only slew
Them who'd have done, each hell-black one,
The same or worse to you.

But lost amid the Hills one day,
Which then was well-nigh shut,
I met a Black upon my way,
And thus the matter put
Unto him -- See; this knife's for thee --
Come, guide me to my Hut.

His savage eyes grew huge with joy
As on the prize they bent;
And leading, even like a Boy,
He capered as he went:
But think you, Men, to give the toy
Ned Connor ever meant?

An hour had brought us many a mile,
And then, as closed the day,
The Savage, pointing with a smile
To where my Station lay --
There give to me the knife, said he,
And let me go my way.

I never meant to give him such,
As I before have said;
And when he stretched his hand to clutch,
A thought came in my head:
I raised my gun, as though in fun;
I fired -- and he was dead.

The ruffian laughed in ruthless mood
When ended thus his tale!
But all the rest, though Men of Blood,
With horror deemed to quail;
And saw that, boastful though he stood,
Ned Connor too was pale.

Now what to hear had made them fear,
Had also made them dry:
But strange! the water-pail that late
Brimmed in a corner nigh,
Was empty! -- In amazement great,
There's not a drop! they cry.

Their thirst grew bitter -- and they said,
Come this will never do!
It is your turn for water, Ned,
Then why not go? He drew
His breath full hard, tend from his head
There dripped a sudden dew.

But shaming to be taxed with fear,
He seized the pail, and said
What care I? though the night be drear,
Who ever saw the Dead?
And if I fail to fill this pail,
The Devil shall instead!

He sallied forth: a sudden blast
Went sobbing by the door,
Through which they heard his footsteps fast
Recede -- and when no more
They heard them, round the fire aghast
They gathered as before.

And long, impatient all and wild,
They wondered at his stay;
Till one outspake -- A weanling child
Could make not more delay!
If longer slack in coming back
He'll bring with him the day.

But as they thus were wondering -- hark!
They heard a frantic shriek!
Then nearing footsteps through the dark
Came waywardly and weak --
And while the dogs did howl and bark,
They stared, but feared to speak.

Against the door that to had swung
One rushed then, and 'twas split!
And 'mongst them there Ned Connor sprung
And fell into a fit!
And through the night in ghastly plight
He struggled hard in it.

And when his sense returned, again
The Sun was rising bright:
But shuddering as in deadly pain,
He turned him from the light,
And pointing, said -- To bed, to bed!
For Death is in my sight !

They bore him to his bed straightway,
Those horror-stricken men,
And questioned him, as there he lay,
Of what had met his ken:
At length aloud he 'gan to pray,
And thus bespake them then.

I went (you heard), with impious boast,
For water to the Brook;
But when the threshold I had crost
All strength my heart forsook!
Each forward step seemed death, but most
I feared behind to look.

Long murky clouds kept hurrying fast
Across the starless sky;
Strange sounds came drowning in the blast
That piped by fits so high:
A winding gleam -- and lo, the Stream
Was wildly moaning by.

I stood at gaze -- my spirits shrank --
A dull damp sense of awe
'Numbed me, as crawling up the bank
Crude Shapes methought I saw! --
I must not back, I said, alack!
But down at once and draw.

Now stooping o'er the water's edge
Mine eyes thereon I threw,
And lo, distinctly through the sedge
Within the Stream I view --
Not mine own shadow from the ledge!
But Him -- the Black I slew.

With backward bound I started round,
And up the bank did flee;
But ah, as swiftly in my track
Bare footsteps seemed to be;
Step -- step for mine, close at my back
I heard, but naught could see!

It was a horrid thing to hear
Behind me still the sound;
I could not bear to have it there,
And desperate, faced me round;
When through the dark a sudden spark
Shot upward from the ground.

Transfixed as with a stunning stroke,
I could not turn again,
But saw, whence came the spark, a smoke
Arise -- I saw it plain!
And from it spread an odour dead
That bit me to the brain.

At first I saw it bloating out
In size not o'er a span;
Then as it slowly wreathed about,
To heighten it began,
Until it took in bulk and look
The stature of a Man.

No stir was near, I might but hear
The beating of my blood;
And there, within my reach almost,
The grisly Phantom stood!
I stared till fear in Fear was lost,
So awful was my mood.

I spake -- I know not what -- and lo,
The diabolic Birth
'Gan writhing wildly to and fro,
As if in horrid mirth,
And then, against me rushing so,
It dashed me to the earth.

Long stunned -- my brain began to swim
With consciousness anew --
But when, with eyeballs strained and dim,
I looked again, I knew
A Form stood o'er me there -- 'twas Him,
The Savage that I slew!

I shrieked, and bounding to my feet,
I fled; but as before
Bare footsteps tracked me, beat for heat,
Until I gained the door: --
What then befel I cannot tell --
I know of nothing more.

He ceased -- and turning in his bed,
Aloud for mercy cried;
And for three days and nights, 'tis said,
He uttered nought beside;
When wild with woe, he shrieked, and so
The haunted Murderer died.

The fearful Men around him then,
Each one of them did say:
Now well we know 'twas murder so
Even a black to slay!
And where he said he saw the Dead,
They buried him next day.

First published in The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 19 August 1846;
and later in
The Bushrangers, a Play in Five Acts, and Other Poems by Charles Harpur, 1853; and
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Australian Bards and Bush Reviewers by Henry Lawson

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While you use your best endeavour to immortalise in verse
The gambling and the drink which are your country's greatest curse,
While you glorify the bully and take the spieler's part --
You're a clever southern writer, scarce inferior to Bret Harte.

If you sing of waving grasses when the plains are dry as bricks,
And discover shining rivers where there's only mud and sticks;
If you picture "mighty forests" where the mulga spoils the view --
You're superior to Kendall, and ahead of Gordon too.

If you swear there's not a country like the land that gave you birth,
And its sons are just the noblest and most glorious chaps on earth;
If in every girl a Venus your poetic eye discerns,
You are gracefully referred to as the "young Australian Burns".

But if you should find that bushmen -- spite of all the poets say --
Are just common brother-sinners, and you're quite as good as they --
You're a drunkard, and a liar, and a cynic, and a sneak,
Your grammar's simply awful and your intellect is weak.

First published in The Bulletin, 18 August 1894;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
Humorous Verses by Henry Lawson, 1941;
The Essential Henry Lawson edited by Brian Kiernan, 1982;
A Camp-Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984;
The Penguin Book of Australian Satirical Verse edited by Philip Neilsen, 1986;
The Sting in the Wattle: Australian Satirical Verse edited by Philip Neilsen, 1993; and
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes 2002.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, The Poetry of Henry Lawson website

See also.

The Unattainable by Kathleen Dalziel

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Many and many's the brand of Love sold by the huckster Life,
   Crying his wares in the market place and the wide crossways;  
The love like a rose and the love that grows with the thorns of passion rife,
   But the love that was made in fairyland in the land of fairy stays.

Some of the brands are brought with gold and some with prayer and fasting;
   Some (and the sweetest) for nothing at all, and some dear got with pain;  
Most of them fair to first sight, and few of them made to lasting,
   But the loves that were wrought in fairyland in fairyland remain.

We choose each prize with blindfold eyes, a strange method, surely;
   All of us seeking and few to find, that aught is what it seems;
The gold turns brass and the keenest pass where a jewel gleams purely.
   But the rarest, fairest love of all we only find in dreams.

The first love and the false love, lad's love gathered with rue;
   Old loves laid in rosemary that buyers pass by these days;
And Time alone is the harvester and winnows the false from true,   
   But the love that belongs to fairyland in the land of fairy stays.

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 17 August 1929

Author reference site: Austlit

See also

Life by Emily Bulcock

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      Life is too great for me!
The lessons set I cannot understand.
Oh, Thou who planned the task stretch out Thine hand
From out the darkness of the Shadow Land;
      Blindly I grope for Thee.

A weakling set to play a giant's part
In a strange world 'neath stranger worlds I go.
The greatness overhead disturbs my heart
More than the complex littleness below:
Bewildered like a lost child at a show.

      Yet sometimes all is clear,
The stars are lamps to light my way to God:
All Earth is holy ground. With feet unshod
I walk where once Divinity has trod and still holds dear.

      And in that good hour's grace,
Through all the maze I see a purpose clear:
Even the tools for my day's work are dear,
Because He shared man's lot and labour here.
How then could aught on Earth be Commonplace?

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 16 August 1930;
and later in
Quenchless Springs: New Poems by Emily Bulcock, 1944.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

"British" by W.T. Goodge

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At the quarterly meeting of the council of the Victorian Scottish Union in Melbourne it was stated that Mr. G.H. Reid, having been remonstrated with by the secretary for using in his speeches the words "England" and "English" instead of "Britain" and "British," had replied, " I must plead guilty in some cases, although in many others I used the terms 'Britain' and 'British.'"

The adjective "British" both right and precise is!
   (Its origin may be inscrutable!)
For Davises, Joneses and Pritchards and Prices
   The term is remarkably suitable!
It also may serve for the English and Scottish,
   The Browns and Greens and MacAlisters;
      Since Jamie's inducture
      It fits the whole structure,
   The cornices, friezes and balusters!

For Thompson and Wilson and Johnson and Jackson
   And Robson and Hobson and Harrison,
Or anyone else of an original Saxon
   'Twill suit beyond any comparison!
But what of McCarthy, O'Donnell and party?
   Bejabers they'd never get cool again!
      A good name to lavish
      On Smith or McTavish
   But devil a bit for O'Hooligan!

First published in The Bulletin, 15 August 1907

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

The Stars of the Southern Cross by Robert Adams

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Alone in the Southern Heaven,
   We gleam like a cross on high,
More bright than the Pleiad seven --
   The lords of the stars of the sky.
And Orion, though belted in glory,
   And Aldebaran's ancient blaze;
And the far dim systems hoary,
   Deep sunk with their nebulous haze--
Are not more mighty in power,
   Than we, as our sacred light
Shines calm in the silent hour
   Of the solemn and deep midnight.

When the children of men are sleeping,
   "Star speaketh unto star,"  
In rhythmical melody sweeping,
   Solemnly sweet afar.
And they sing of light's wondrous dawning,
   As the glow of His gaze sublime,
In creation's glorious morning,
   Gave birth to the beings of time.

When the children of men's salvation
   Was wrought out in Palestine,
His cross grew a sign to each nation,
   Of a hope and a future divine.
But our Heaven hung symbol was never
   Beheld by a Christian eye,
Till Iberia's gaze saw our wondrous rays
   In the deeps of the southern sky.
Yet we glowed through Eternity's ages,
   Undimmed down the vistas of time,
Aloft on night's heavenly pages,
   As a symbol of futures sublime.

As the Mariner's Star sunk slowly,
   Deep hid down the northern night,
We rose like an omen holy
   On his wearied and anxious sight;  
And shone on the awe-struck Spaniard,
   As his lonely caravel,
With storm-bleached shroud and lanyard,
   Surged up the mountain swell
Of the shoreless Southern Ocean;  
   And the gleam of our unknown rays
Awoke all his soul's devotion,
   In an outburst of prayer and praise.
For we rose on his sight as the symbol
   Of a life beyond the grave,
And a heavenly goal for each wanderer's soul,  
   'Midst the wastes of that wild lone wave.  

When the spirits of those whom Heaven  
   Reclaims from their mortal world
Hath new vision unto them given,
   With their angel wings unfurled --
As they soar with the seraph spirits
   Through the depths of the ether space,
'Midst the stars which each soul inherits,
   Of the children of heavenly race --
How they will see with wonder,
   And awe, and reverent love,
The planet orbs sinking under,
   And suns rising bright above.
As their earth grows dimly duller,
   A speck in the lower night --
And o'er them brightening fuller,
   With fathomless seas of light --
Each gorgeous constellation
   Glows in their raptured eyes,
Fresh from life's dull probation,
   'Midst luminous loftier skies.

Then shall they see, with a tender
   And solemn deep joy, the blaze
Of the clear transcendant splendour
   Of our clustering stars, and their rays --
Ruby, and purple, and golden,
   Gleaming a myriad fold,
More than all jewels beholden
   By them in earth's visions of old.
For though we but seem unto mortal
   Four stars, like a hierophic sign,
We show but the mystical portal
   To galaxies yet more divine,--

Whose clustering sunshines of glory --
   System on system afar --
Undimmed through antiquity hoary,
   With many an opaline star,
Burns bright on the broad brow of Heaven,
   'Midst its mightiest diadems,
As we circle around the "great seven,"
   Like His cross, set with worlds for our gems.

First published
in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 14 August 1875

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Answer by M. Burkinshaw (Mabel Forrest)

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I called her once, heart-proud with youth's hot wine,
Deeming that but to call must make her mine,
Seeing responsive eyes in Fancy shine --
            I called her once.

But never answer gave she, sad or gay;
Only a silence o'er the untrod way,
Only a distance widening day by day.

I called her once, angry with Life's defeat,
Feeling forgiving eyes would be so sweet,
Ready to lay my failures at her feet ---   
            I called her once.

But only chiding gave she scornfully,
"Arise! and make the world take heed of thee,
And when triumphant then return to me."

I called her once; a whisper and a sigh,
"A prayer she must not hear" --- so faltered I;
"Yet my fond heart will call her ere I die!"   

            I called her once,
And what an answer gave she back to me!   
Ah! there was glory on the earth and sea,
And hands and lips that hovered tenderly!  

First published in The Queenslander, 13 August 1898

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Riders in the Stand by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

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There's some that ride the Robbo style, and bump at every stride;
While others sit a long way back, to get a longer ride.
There's some that ride as sailors do, with legs, and arms, and teeth;
And some that ride the horse's neck, and some ride underneath.

But all the finest horsemen out -- the men to Beat the Band --
You'll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand.
They'll say "He had the race in hand, and lost it in the straight."
They'll know how Godby came too soon, and Barden came too late

They'll say Chevalley lost his nerve, and Regan lost his head;
They'll tell how one was "livened up" and something else was "dead" --
In fact, the race was never run on sea, or sky, or land,
But what you'd get it better done by riders in the Stand.

The rule holds good in everything in life's uncertain fight;
You'll find the winner can't go wrong, the loser can't go right.
You ride a slashing race, and lose -- by one and all you're banned!
Ride like a bag of flour, and win -- they'll cheer you in the Stand.

First published in The Evening News, 12 August 1903;
and later in
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses by A.B. Paterson, 1917;
The Collected Verse of A.B. Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1982;
Song of the Pen, A.B. (Banjo) Paterson: Complete Works 1901-1941 edited by Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie, 1983;
A.B. Paterson's Off Down the Track: Racing and Other Yarns by A.B. Paterson, 1986;
Favorite Australian Poems, 1987;
A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1990; and
The Collected Verse of Banjo Paterson edited by Clement Semmler, 1993.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Outside by Will M. Fleming

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It seems so cold, so very cold  
   To stand where seas are blue,
Reluctant, on the edge of life,
   And watch what others do.  
       
To live outside the hearts of those
   Whose daily ways we know,      
And watch, as they were marionettes,
   And life a puppet show.
 
To hear the ages tramping past, 
   With strong, unhurried feet,
And sit as loungers in a park
   Upon a shaded seat. 

To hear the blithe birds as they go,
   Each eager, joyous pair,
With eyes and ears too dull to know
   The happiness that's there. 

It must be cold, so very cold,
   When evening shadows fall;
And Death calls from eternity,
   Alone to hear the call.

First published
in The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 August 1928

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

To My Soul by Adam Lindsay Gordon

| No TrackBacks
Tired and worn, and wearisome for love
   Of some immortal hope beyond the grave,
Thy soul thou frettest like the prisoned dove
   That now is sick to rest, and now doth crave   
To cleave the upward sky with sudden wing!
   The heaven is clear and boundless, and thy flight
To some new land might be a joyous thing,
   Within this cage of clay there is no light;
Glimpses between its mortal bars there be
That bring a powerful longing to be free,
And tones that reach the ear so mysteriously
When thou art wrapt in thy divinest dream.
Yet thou art but the plaything and the slave
   Of some strange power that wears thy strength away ---
Slowly and surely, which thou dar'st not brave
   Because pale men in some tradition say
It is a God that would not have thee 'scape
The torture that He wills to be thy fate.
'Tis but a tyrant's dream, and born of hate;
Then, soul, be not disquieted with doubt;
Step to the brink --- this hand shall let thee out.  

First published in The Queenslander, 10 August 1895

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

A-Shelling Peas by Harry "Breaker" Morant

| No TrackBacks
Now, all the world is green and bright
   Outside the latticed pane;
The fields are decked with gold and white,
   And Spring has come again.
But though the world be fair without,
   With flow'rs and waving trees,
'Tis pleasanter to be about
   Where Nell's a-shelling peas.

Her eyes are blue as cloudless skies,
   And dimples deck her cheeks;
Whilst soft lights loiter in her eyes
   Whene'er she smiles or speaks.
So all the sunlit morning-tide
   I dally at mine ease,
To loaf at slender Nelly's side
   When Nell's a-shelling peas.

This bard, who sits a-watching Nell,
   With fingers white and slim,
Owns up that, as she breaks each shell,
   She also "breaks up" him;
And could devoutly drop upon
   Submissive, bended knees
To worship Nell with apron on -
   A saint a-shelling peas.

The tucked-up muslin sleeves disclose
   Her round arms white and bare -
'Tis only "shelling peas" that shows
   Those dainty dimples there.
Old earth owns many sights to see
   That captivate and please; -
The most bewitching sight for me
   Is Nell a-shelling peas.

First published in The Bulletin, 9 August 1902;
and later in
The Poetry of "Breaker" Morant: from The Bulletin 1891-903 with original illustrations by Breaker Morant; and
The Language of Love: An Anthology of Australian Love letters, Poetry and Prose edited by Pamela Allardice,1991.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also

Fugitive by Ruth M. Bedford

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I brought the Spring into the house,
But the Spring did not stay;  
I filled a jar with young green boughs,
Delicate, fresh, and gay;
But they missed the sunny, the windy air,
The house seemed dark to them, full of care,
And they withered away.

I will go and follow the Spring
Over the hills away;   
Light is laughing there, birds awing,
And all Spring on a spray;
By half-seen blossoms and trailing vines
Where the wind flows and the sun shines     
I'll laugh and I'll play.

The Spring will go with me, hand in hand,
Happily all the way,
Showing me over his wide green land
All in its new array.
The house is Winter's where youth will pine
But out-of-doors is the Spring's and mine
For the whole bright day.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 1931

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Last by Henry Parkes

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A beautiful ship o'er the waters career'd
(For a part in the East the bold mariners steer'd),
And queen-like she stood in the sun's dying light;
But she struck on a reef, and went down in the night!   

A storm gathered fast as the darkness set in,
And the ocean grew wroth, as a thing that felt sin;
Not a star its mild light through the stormy night shed,
And the waves and the winds seemed to mingle o'er head.

Majestic the beautiful ship met the storm,
But her fate on that reef was prepared by the worm!   
In the dead of the night she was riven asunder,
With a shock more terrific and wild than the thunder.

There were friends in the hulk as her timbers were starting,
But they felt not a pang of affection in parting;
For the grasp of the tempest o'erpower'd them instead,
Like the pressing of death to the infidel's bed!

And those suppliant eyes, when they thought to meet Heaven,
In the gulf of the sea by a demon were driven;
And the horrible shriek which went up in despair,
With the howl of the wind, died away in the air!

There are hearts far away that shall sorrow in vain,
Long hoping, but, ah they will come not again;
Nor a rover of all who return shall unfold
The tale which those fond hearts so throb to hear told!  

First published
in The Australasian Chronicle, 7 August 1841;
and later in
Stolen Moments: A Short Series of Poems by Henry Parkes, 1842.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Old Nell Dickerson by John Shaw Neilson

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The young folk heard the old folk say
   'twas long ago she came;
Some said it was her own, and some
   it was another's shame.
All pleasantly the seasons passed
   in gray and gold and green,
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no one had ever seen.

They said that when a baby crowed
   she turned her head away,
And when delightful lovers kissed
   her sallow face went gray:
Some say she laughed at love and death
   and every man-made law --
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no babbler ever saw.

October ran with greenery
   and blossoms white and fair;
The poorest soul had time to feast
   on beauty everywhere;
A thousand anthems rose to God
   through the uproarious blue,
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no singer ever knew.

The summer sauntered in with wheat
   and forest fire and haze,
And the white frocks of white girls,
   and lads with love ablaze;
Sweet sighs were in the high heavens
   and upon the warm ground --
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   it never yet was found.

The winter came with wistful talk
   of water-birds in tune,
And while their snowy treasures slept
   did mother ewes commune;
In every wind and every rain
   some daring joys would climb --
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   was prisoner all the time.

The streamers stood across the sky
   one evening clear and warm;
The old folk said the streamers come
   foretelling strife and storm.
When old Nell laughed her hollow laugh
   the neighbours looked in awe,
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no neighbour ever saw.

And with the night came thundering
   like Evil wandering near,
And the tender little children wept
   and the women shook with fear;
Out on the night went one stern soul --
   along the wind it blew;
Oh, the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no babbler ever knew!

Softly they sought her little room,
   and she was blue and cold;
Upon the wall some straggling words
   her last poor wishes told:
Nothing she gave, and little begged --
   they read there mournfully:
"Bitter and black was all my life,
   but wear no black for me."

'Twas a green day and a wild day
   and lovers walked along,
And the old men, the grey men,
   the ruddy men and strong,
And the tenderest of pale girls
   in pink and green and blue
Walked mournfully behind the heart
   that no one ever knew.

And there were many dropping tears
   on sashes red and wide,
And more hot prayers were said that day
   than if a king had died;
And some wore white and yellow frocks
   and some wore blue and green,
But the heart of old Nell Dickerson
   no one had ever seen.

First published in The Sun (Sydney), 6 August 1911;
and later in
The Bookfellow, 15 June 1914;
Green Days and Cherries: the early verse of Shaw Neilson edited by Hugh Anderson and Leslie James Blake, 1981; and
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

August by Zora Cross

| No TrackBacks
Feathers of frost still flaunt their loveliness,
But it is useless to pretend earth cares.
A rendezvous clandestinely she shares
With an old love whose lips she soon will press.
Already now her hardenbergia dress
In bright unrationed purple lengths she wears,
And cool uncouponed blossom-gauze prepares.
Despite the pathos of the world's distress.
The solid sweetness of the banksia now
To the frail wattle's transient scent gives way,
And the first orchid points a pale pink spear.
A sweet thick note resounds from bough to bough.
The pallid cuckoo has returned to say
Whether you like or not the spring is here.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 August 1944

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Old Qld Poetry

See also.

An Old Master by C. J. Dennis

| No TrackBacks
We were cartin' lathes and palin's from the slopes of Mount St. Leonard,
With our axles near the road-bed and the mud as stiff as glue;
And our bullocks weren't precisely what you'd call conditioned nicely,
And meself and Messmate Mitchell had our doubts of gettin' through.

It had rained a tidy skyful in the week before we started,
But our tucker-bag depended on the sellin' of our load;
So we punched 'em on by inches, liftin' 'em across the pinches,
Till we struck the final section of the worst part of the road.

We were just congratulatin' one another on the journey,
When we blundered in a pot-hole right within the sight of goal,
Where the bush-track joins the metal. Mitchell, as he saw her settle,
Justified his reputation at the peril of his soul.

We were in a glue-pot, certain --- red and stiff and most tenacious;
Over naves and over axles --- waggon sittin' on the road.
"'Struth," says I, "they'll never lift her. Take a shot from Hell to shift her.
Nothin' left us but unyoke 'em and sling off the blessed load."

Now, beside our scene of trouble stood a little one-roomed humpy,
Home of an enfeebled party by the name of Dad McGee.
William was, I pause to mention, livin' on an old-age pension
Since he gave up bullock-punchin' at the age of eighty-three.

Startled by our exclamations, Daddy hobbled from the shanty,
Hobbled out and over to us on his old rheumatic pins,
Shadin' his old eyes and peerin' here and there around the clearin',
While we watched his consternation with half-sympathetic grins.

"Eh!  Wot's happened now?" he quavered, in a weak and shaky treble,
Gazin' where the stranded waggon looked like some half-foundered ship.
Then the state o' things he spotted, "Looks," he says, "like you was potted,"
And he toddled up to Mitchell. "Here," said he, "gimme that whip."

Mitchell, bein' out o' patience, flung a glance of anger at him,
Followed by some fancy language of his very choicest brand.
Then old daddy seemed to straighten.  "Now," he yelled, "don't keep me waitin'!
Pass that whip, you blarsted blue-tongue!"  Mitchell put it in his hand.

Well! I've heard of transformations; heard of fellers sort of changin'
In the face of sudden danger or some great emergency;
Heard the like in song and story and in bush traditions hoary,
But I nearly dropped me bundle as I looked at Dad McGee.

While we gazed he seemed to toughen; as his fingers gripped the handle
His old form grew straight and supple, and a light leaped in his eye;
And he stepped around the waggon, not with footsteps weak and laggin',
But with firm, determined carriage, as he flung the whip on high.

Now he swung the leaders over, while the whip-lash snarled and volleyed;
And they answered like one bullock, strainin' to each crack and clout;
But he kept his cursin' under, till old Brindle made a blunder;
Then I thought all Hell had hit me, <i>and the master opened out.</i>

And the language! Oh, the language!  I have known some noble cursers --
"Hell-fire" Mac and "Cursin': Brogan -- men of boundless blasphemee,
Full of fancy exclamations, trimmed with frills and declarations;
But their talk was childish prattle to that language of McGee.

In a trance stood messmate Mitchell; seemed to me I must be dreamin';
While the wondrous words and phrases only genius could loose
Roared and rumbled fast and faster in the throat of that Old Master ---
Oaths and curses tipped with lightning, cracklin' flames of fierce abuse.

Then we knew the man before us was a Master of our callin';
One of those great lords of language gone for ever from Outback;
Heroes of an ancient order; men who punched across the border;
Vanished giants of the 'sixties; puncher-princes of the track.

Now we heard the timbers strainin', heard the waggon's loud complainin',
And the master cried triumphant, as he swung 'em into line,
As they put their toes into it, lifted her, and pulled her through it:
"That's the way we useter do it in the days o' sixty-nine!"

Near the foot of Mount St. Leonard lives an old, enfeebled party
Who retired from bullock-punchin' at the age of eighty-three.
If you seek him folk will mention, merely, that he draws the pension;
But to us he looms a Master -- Prince of Punchers, Dad McGee!

First published in The Bulletin, 4 August 1910;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918;
Old Ballads from the Bush edited by Bill Scott, 1987;
Selected Works of C.J. Dennis by C.J. Dennis, 1988;
Favourite Poems of C.J. Dennis by C.J. Dennis, 1989; and
Anthology of Bullock Poetry edited by Janice Downes, 2006.

Author reference sites: C.J. Dennis, Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Eland's River by George Essex Evans

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4th to 16th August, 1900.

This engagement has been described by English officers as the most gallant fight of the whole war, and has been specially recommended by Conan Doyle as the finest subject that an Australian balladist could wish for.


It was on the fourth of August, as five hundred of us lay
In the camp at Eland's River, came a shell from De La Rey ---
         We were dreaming of home faces,
         Of the old familiar places,
And the gum-trees and the sunny plains five thousand miles away ---
         But the challenge woke and found us
         With four thousand rifles round us;
And Death stood laughing at us at the breaking of the day.

Hell belched upon our borders, and the battle had begun.
Our Maxims jammed: We faced them with one muzzle-loading gun.
         East, south, and west, and nor'ward
         Their shells came screaming forward    
As we threw the sconces round us in the first light of the sun.
         The thin air shook with thunder    
         As they raked us fore and under,
And the cordon closed around us, and they held us --- eight to one.

We got the Maxims going, and the field-gun into place   
(She stilled the growling of a Krupp upon our southern face);
         Round the crimson ring of battle
         Swiftly ran the deadly rattle
As our rifles searched their fore-lines with a desperate menace;
         Who would wish himself away
         Fighting in our ranks that day
For the glory of Australia and the honour of the race?

But our horse-lines soon were shambles, and our cattle lying dead
(When twelve guns rake two acres there is little room to tread),
         All day long we heard the drumming
         Of the Mauser bullets humming,
And at night their guns, day-sighted, rained fierce havoc overhead.
         Twelve long days and nights together,
         Through the cold and bitter weather,  
We lay grim behind the sconces, and returned them lead for lead.  

They called us to surrender, and they let their cannon lag;
They offered us our freedom for the striking of the flag ---
         Army stores were there in mounds,
         Worth a hundred thousand pounds,
And we lay battered round them behind trench and sconce and crag.
         But we sent the answer in,
         They could take what they could win ---
We hadn't come five thousand miles to fly the coward's rag.  

We saw the guns of Carrington come on and fall away;
We saw the ranks of Kitchener across the kopje grey ---
         For the sun was shining then
         Upon twenty thousand men ---
And we laughed, because we knew, in spite of hell-fire and delay,
         On Australia's page for ever
         We had written Eland's River ---
We had written it for ever and a day!

First published
in The Argus, 3 August 1901;
and later in
The Brisbane Courier, 10 August 1901;
The Queenslander, 17 August 1901;
The Secret Key and Other Verses by George Essex Evans, 1906;
The Collected Verse of G. Essex Evans by George Essex Evans, 1928; and
Fighting Words: Australian War Writing edited by Carl Harrison-Ford, 1986.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also

Our Heroes: Who, Being Dead, Yet Speak by S. Elliott Napier

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"O lov'd and honor'd dead!" we cry,
"O honor'd dead!" -- and where they lie,
Beneath the blue but alien sky,
The dead men whisper their reply:

Ten years ago the storm-clouds broke
And Armageddon's thunders woke  
   A wounded, wond'ring world to know
   That at the gates there stood the foe,
Thrusting at Faith with wanton stroke.
We -- we who heard the raven-croak
Of death beneath his shadowy cloak,
   And watch'd his dreadful harvest grow,
                     Ten years ago,
Heard, too, from out the battle-smoke,
A voice that rang: "Take up the yoke,
   This is thine hour; through fear and woe
   And bitterness fight on!" and, lo!
Thus did we, for 'twas honour spoke,
                     Ten years ago.

Ten years ago we shared the jest
With you and knew with you the zest
   Of life -- now lie we here. You say
   You honour our great dying -- stay!
How hath your honour stood the test?
That which we gain'd have you possess'd?
That which we strove for have you stress'd?
   Where are the things we won that day,
                     Ten years ago?
Your honour is dishonour dress'd
In huckster's garments at the best.
   We showed -- can you not keep? -- the way;
   We paid the price -- can you not pay?
We rest not; yet we earn'd our rest
                     Ten years ago.  

Ten years ago we strove for naught
But peace and liberty; we fought
   To conquer tyranny and pride,
   And in our dying gladly cried
That we had found what we had sought.
It seems we err'd in deed and thought;
Although we clutch'd, we never caught
   The gracious things for which we died,
                     Those years ago.
Is this the peace the years have brought,
The liberty we learn'd and taught?
   The truth for which hell's gates we pried --
   This wanton one that virgin bride?
Ah, no! 'Twas not those things we sought
                     Ten years ago!

The whisp'ring voices sink and cease,
But we who hear -- shall we increase
The shame; or, healing, bring release
By some now nobler Armistice,
And win the world to lasting peace?

This is our debt with those who laid
Their lives down gladly, unafraid,
That wrong's red torrent might be stayed.
This is the debt that we have made;
Ah, brothers, shall it not be paid?

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 August 1924

Author reference sites: Austlit

See also.

The Sum of Things by Arthur W. Jose

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This is the sum of things...that we    
A moment live, a little see,    
Do somewhat, and are gone; for so    
The eternal currents ebb and flow.    
 
This is the sum of work--that man
Does, while he may, the best he can,   
Nor greatly cares, when all is done,   
What praise or blame his toils have won.   
 
This is the sum of fight--to find   
The links of kin with all our kind,
And know the beauty Nature folds   
Even in the simplest form she moulds.   
 
This is the sum of life--to feel   
Our handgrip on the hilted steel,   
To fight beside our mates, and prove
The best of comradeship and love.   
 
This is the sum of things--that we   
A lifetime live greatheartedly,   
See the whole best that life has meant,   
Do out our work, and go content.

First published in The Lone Hand, 1 August 1908;
and later in
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918; and
An Australasian Anthology: Australian and New Zealand Poems edited by Percival Serle, R.H. Croll and Frank Wilmot, 1927.

Author: Arthur Wilberforce Jose (1863-1934) was born in Bristol, England, and studied at Oxford University before arriving in Australia in 1882.  He taught at All Saints College in Bathurst for nine years before becoming Acting Professor of Modern Literature at Sydney University. Followiing a period of travel he returned to Australia and became a correspondent for the London "Times".  He served as a captain in the Royal Australian Navy during World War I.  He continued to write after the war and died in Brisbane in 1934.

Author reference site: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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